Tennessee bill addressing fire alarms after Nashville school shooting heads to governor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill requiring that public and private schools determine why a fire alarm went off before evacuating children from classrooms, sending the governor a proposal Monday inspired by a deadly Nashville elementary school shooting.

The state Senate passed the legislation after the House approved it earlier this month, with no one voting against the bill in either chamber. Lawmakers have directly tied the bill to The Covenant School shooting where a shooter killed six people, including three children, last March.

Smoke from the shooter’s weapon triggered the school’s fire alarm, but some students and teachers were unaware what was going on when they heard it. This confusion ultimately led to the death of third-grader William Kinney, who had been designated as line leader for his class that day and was the first to collide with the shooter in a hallway while helping students out of the classroom.

“In the Covenant shooting, the fire alarm went off, and the natural response is to go out in the hallway and get out of the building," said Sen. Ferrell Haile, a Gallatin Republican who sponsored the bill. "Well, the shooter was in the hallway, waiting for those students to come out.”

The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who has not vetoed any legislation while in office.

According to the legislation, all public and private schools would be required to develop a policy that would direct school employees how to respond to a fire alarm being activated due to an active shooter. Those plans would need to be ready to be implemented by July 1.

The bill falls within one of the focus areas for the Republican-supermajority Legislature in the wake of the shooting, including school safety resources, mental health and other topics. GOP lawmakers have rebuffed calls to pass stricter gun control measures.

Some Republican lawmakers have advocated for further easing of restriction of gun laws. That includes a bill passed by the House on Monday that would allow private schools with pre-kindergarten classes to put in place policies allowing guns on campus. It still requires several steps of passage in the Senate.

A group of family members of students at The Covenant School has advocated for the fire alarm bill to pass, in addition to some gun reform measures and other changes. Some were on hand in the gallery for Monday's floor session.